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A Brief History of the Bucket Regattas

 

The first Bucket regatta was organized in Nantucket, Mass, in August, 1986 by Roger Janes, Captain of the 82’ Huisman Ketch,VOLODOR; Peter Goldstein, owner-Captain of the 65’ Derecktor Sloop, FLYING GOOSE, and John Clyde Smith, Captain of the 92’ Bill Garden designed sloop, MANDALAY, to coincide with MANDALAY owner Nelson Doubleday’s birthday celebrations.  During an evening that evolved into a rather torrid Rum Squall, debate raged as to what each yacht and crew could accomplish, and the stage was set for bragging rights. The following day, seven yachts sailed the first Nantucket Bucket, a fifteen mile course in Nantucket Sound. Recollections are hazy as to exactly which yacht won, but records clearly indicate that no yacht finished worse than seventh.

Between 1986 and 2001, the Nantucket Bucket flourished, becoming a premier Mega Yacht Regatta that invited owners and crews of the world’s largest sailing yachts to sail to peak performance in a safe venue, in the spirit of wholesome competition. The concept of pursuit racing was brought to life by the Bucket, with each Yacht assigned its own start time on a clear starting line for safety, and the start time calibrated to induce the yacht’s speed handicap.  Consequently, the first yacht to cross the finish line, wins.

Following the announcement that 2001 was to be the last Nantucket Bucket, the founders passed the torch to the present Bucket Race Committee; Hank Halsted, Ian Craddock and Timothy Laughridge. The summer venue was shifted in 2002, to Newport, RI, where the event has since been well hosted by the Newport Shipyard.

The first St. Barths Bucket was sailed in 1995 with a fleet of 4 yachts;  SARIYAH, the 131’  S & S ketch, Tom Taylor’s 108’ Ron Holland ketch, GLEAM, Nelson Doubleday’s 130’ Palmer Johnson ketch, MANDALAY and PARLAY, the Alden design 127’ Ketch.

As with the Nantucket Bucket, the St. Barth’s Bucket concept was encouraged and fully supported by Tom Taylor (owner of Gleam) and Nelson Doubleday (owner of Mandalay). The original organizers Tim Laughridge (Sariyah), John Clyde-Smith & Ian Craddock (Mandalay) and Mike Frierbend (Gleam) arranged a mostly informal event for the first few years. Fishing was a big part of the first races around St. Barths, with GLEAM the usual winner in that department.

The turning point came during the year of the famous LeMans start - Surely a first in any kind of yacht racing. With the fleet at anchor in Colombier, one crewmember was required to drink a daiquiri then take a high speed tender ride out to their vessel.  The yachts were required to sail off their anchor (no engines) then at the end of the race sail onto their anchor for another high speed tender ride to the beach. For obvious safety reasons this was the first and last time the “LeMans” start/finish was attempted.

It was at this time the local authorities suggested that it appeared there was an annual regatta happening on their island and it would be best for all involved if the event was formalized with all appropriate permissions requested and requirements followed with the hosts, the St. Barths government, and the Federation Francaise de la Voile for formal permission to hold a Regatta in French Waters. This was the dawn of the modern Bucket format. Hank Halsted was brought in as Managing Director and together with Melanie Smith, a St. Barth’s local, evolved the event into what it is today.

Within a decade, the St. Barths Bucket expanded beyond all reasonable expectations.  With a limit of 30 yachts required by the local Authorities to keep a handle on the event, the Bucket has been all but full every year since 2005.  In recent years, the fleet has overflowed with applicants even before the Notice of Race is published!

As the Bucket Regattas have evolved, the organizers have kept a tight focus on maintaining the original, non-commercial flavor of the event.  Sponsorship is funded exclusively from the Marine Industry.  The major shipyards, Perini Navi, Royal Huisman Shipyard, Alloy Yachts, Holland Jachtbouw and Vitter’s Shipyard have been particularly generous in their sponsorship of the event.  The clear understanding between the Bucket Race Committee and all sponsors is that these Regattas present a magnificent opportunity for networking within the fleet.  They are explicitly not, an opportunity for overt marketing.  The instruction to the sponsors is that if they need to explain the difference to their representatives, then they are sending the wrong people.

The primary reason for the success of the Bucket Regattas is that the emphasis is more upon wholesome fun than about winning. The stated goal is to “win the party”.  The omnipresent, over riding conundrum for the Bucket Raced Committee is to convince the most competitive owners on planet  (demonstrated by the fact that they own these things in the first place) that winning isn’t important!!